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Flashing lights protect livestock from lions

Farmers on the outskirts of Nairobi National Park protect their livestock using flashing lights on top of the animal enclosures. This system keeps lions away at night. Leiden research has shown that the method is both simple and effective. Publication in PLOS ONE.

Nairobi National Park in Kenya is a small conservation area surrounded by a residential area where many of the local people earn their living by keeping livestock. Lions leave Nairobi National Park at night and find a way inside the enclosures erected by the farmers and attack the livestock. They destroy more animals than they eat and as a result they are often killed by the farmers in revenge. 

Flashing lights on the fences

PhD candidate Francis Lesilau, himself from Kenya, carried out research together with his supervisors Hans de Iongh and Geert de Snoo at Leiden University on the use of a system of LED flashing lights to protect the livestock against the lions, and ultimately to protect the lions themselves. Between 2007 and 2016 they monitored 80 farms in the region, 43 of which had installed the flashlight system on the fences enclosing the livestock at night.

Fewer attacks

The technique appeared to work: the enclosures with the flashing lights were attacked much less frequently by lions than the enclosures without the lights. Unfortunately, the lions also seemed to adapt to the new situation: once the lights had been installed by farmers close to the borders of the park, the lions started to attack enclosures further away where there were no lights. The lions also changed their behavioural pattern, attacking less at night and more in the daytime. 

Expand the region

Nonetheless, Lesilau believes the flashing lights are an effective means of combatting the nocturnal attacks by lions. More research is needed on the long-term effects and what happens if the enclosures in a much broader area around the Nairobi National Park are fitted with lights.

Lesilau's research, entitled ‘Effectiveness of an LED flashlight technique in reducing livestock depredation by lions around Nairobi National Park, Kenya’ has been published in the journal PLOS One.

Photo above article: an enclosure provided with LED flashing lights in the area around Nairobi National Park, Kenya. (Image: Geert de Snoo)

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